Gold Barb
barb fish

Gold Barb

Puntius semifasciolatus

Scientific name: Puntius semifasciolatus    
Common name: Gold barb, China barb and more. See detailed info below.
Max. size: 7.0 cm / 2.8 inches             
pH range: 6.0 – 8.0
dH range: 5 - 19
Temperature range: 18 – 24°C / 64 – 75°F

Gold barbs are active fishes that spend most of their time in the mid-level and bottom of the aquarium. They are popular among aquarists since they will add colour as well as activity to the aquarium. Since this is a shoaling species, you should always keep at least 5 specimens together. Golden barbs are peaceful and therefore ideal for a community aquarium with other docile fish species of similar size and environmental requirements. If you provide your Golden barbs with good care, they can live up to 4-6 years in captivity.

Gold barb common names:

Even within the English language, this species is known under a wide range of different common names. In the United States, it is commonly referred to as China barb, Halfbanded barb or Shubert’s barb, while British English speakers prefer the name Chinese barb or Half-striped barb. In Honk Kong, the fish is known as the Chinese half-striped barb or Six-banded barb.

The terms Gold barb and Shubert’s barb are often used exclusively for a yellow version of this species, and the name Pontius shubertii is sometimes used as scientific name for this yellow colour variant.                                                                                                        

Gold barb habitat:

The Gold barb is native to subtropical parts of South East Asia where the water temperature typically stays between 18 and 24° C (64 and 75° F). The benthopelagic Gold barb rarely swims below 5 metres. It is a freshwater species that primarily inhabits the Red River basin. The Red River flows from China's Yunnan province through Vietnam until it empties into the South China Sea. Wild Gold barb can also be found in Laos. Introduced Gold barb populations can today be found in Singapore as well as in Hawaii, U.S.  

Gold barb description:

The Gold barb belongs to Cyprinidae, the minnow family, and is a medium long barb. The largest scientifically measured wild Gold barb was 7 centimetres (2.8 inches) long. The Gold barb body features a complete lateral line and the last simple dorsal ray is posteriorly serrated. The back of an adult Gold barb is highly arched. Just like the other barbs, the Gold barb is equipped with a pair of barbells. They are short and located at the corners of the mouth on the upper jaw.  

The Gold barb body is decorated with 4-7 narrow bars that tend to be dissociated into series of blotches and spots. The degree of dissociation varies from specimen to specimen.  The sides of the Gold barb are of a beautiful metallic green or yellow green shade, with a golden or brassy lustre below. The back is light to reddish brown, while the belly is whitish. Today, you can also purchase an all-gold form of Puntius semifasciolatus.     

The female Gold barb tends to have duller colours than the male and she is also more bulky. During the breeding period, the bellies will loose their bland whitish colour and change into vivid orange-red in male Golden barbs.  

Gold barb setup:

Gold barbs should always be kept in groups consisting of at least five Gold barbs. Group-living Gold barbs are much less stressed and much more active and entertaining single Gold barbs. The shoal will spend most of its time in the mid-level and bottom of the aquarium.

The largest scientifically measured wild Gold barb was 7 centimetres (2.8 inches) long, but many aquarists have reported that their Gold barbs have grown larger than this in captivity. A 12 gallon aquarium is considered a minimum.

The Gold barbs are very active and should be provided with plenty of swimming space. Try to mimic the natural Gold barb habitat when you decorate the aquarium. Add a lot of plants to the back and sides of the aquarium, but leave an area open for swimming. Strong aquarium light will make the Gold barbs look more brilliant and colourful. Since the Gold barb inhabits running water in the wild, it will appreciate currents in the aquarium. 

Gold barb tank mates:

Goldbarb - Picture by Tolley

As mentioned above, Gold barbs should never be kept in groups consisting of less than five Gold barbs. If you keep a smaller amount of Gold barbs, they can become stressed and shy and spend most of their time at the bottom of the aquarium. A group of Gold barbs on the other hand is highly active.

A group of Gold barbs can be kept with most types of peaceful fish species of similar size, provided of course that they appreciate the same conditions. Some timid fishes can be a little scared of the active and vigorous Gold barbs, but the presence of Gold barbs can also serve to make shy fishes more relaxed. If the Gold barbs can swim around like that without begin devoured, their can be no danger present in the aquarium, right?

Gold barbs have been successfully kept with other Asian species such as the Opaline Gourami (Trichogaster trichopterus) and the Paradisefish (Macropodus opercularus). You can however also combine it with species from other parts of the world, e.g. the common Platy (Xiphophorus maculatus), the Bristlenose Catfish (Ancistrus dolichopterus) and the Neon Rainbowfish (Melanotaenia praecox). 

Gold barb care:
The Gold barb is a hardy fish that can be kept even by beginner aquarists. It can endure a pH from 6 to 8, but neutral or acidic water is preferred. Ideally keep the pH as close to 6.8 as possible. The Gold barb will usually tolerate a water hardness of 5.0 - 19.0. Soft to moderately hard water is preferred, and the ideal dGH is 8.

The recommended water temperature is 18 – 24° C (64 – 75° F), but most Gold barbs will survive a drop down to 17° C (64° F). Since Gold barbs appreciate a temperature range that is slightly below that of most tropical species, it is often kept in unheated indoor aquariums. 

Gold barb feeding:

Wild Gold barbs feed on plant matter, detritus, insects, worms and crustaceans.  In captivity, they are usually happy eaters that accept a wide range of food. You can for instance use a high quality tropical flake food as a base, and supplement it with frozen or live worms, and boiled vegetables such as zucchini. Since the Gold barb is an opportunistic omnivore it is important that you provide it with a varied diet. 

Gold barb breeding:

Gold barbs are prolific in the wild and have a minimum population doubling lower than 15 months. They can spawn several times a year. The Gold barb is an egg-scattering species and roughly one hundred eggs are released during each spawning. The eggs will be released when the fish notice the first signs of sun beams in the early morning.

If you want to breed Gold barbs, it can be a good idea to set up a special breeding aquarium. Since Gold barbs are egg-scatterers that do not engage in parental care, they may very well eat their own eggs and fry. Sexing gold barbs are not hard, since the female will have a bulkier body than the male and display a duller body colouration. During the breeding period, the male Gold barb will display an orange-red belly.

A breeding aquarium should be at least 60 centimetres (24 inches) long, since the male will court the female quite violently during the breeding period. He will swim around her in circles and push her around with his mouth open. He will also strike her with his tail and try to force her to swim to a planted part of the aquarium where the eggs can be released. Just as in the wild, the eggs will be released when the water becomes light after the night.   

When the eggs have been released and fertilized, you should remove the parents from the breeding aquarium to ensure high fry survival. The eggs are of a yellowish shade and will hatch within 1 or 2 days. After a few more days, the fry will be free swimming and can be fed rotifers and newly hatched nauplii.

If you do not want to set up a separate breeding aquarium, you can instead keep the ordinary aquarium densely planted and include a lot of bushy plant species that will provide good hiding spots for fry. A lot of eggs and fry will still be eaten, but just like in the wild a few will survive by staying hidden among the plants.

The typical life span for captive Golden barbs in well kept aquariums is 4-6 years.


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